Victor Hugo

“As we have seen, prayer, celebration of the religious offices, alms, consoling the afflicted, the cultivation of a little piece of ground, fraternity, frugality, hospitality, self-sacrifice, confidence, study, and work, filled up each day of his life. Filled up is exactly the phrase; and in fact, the Bishop's day was full to the brim with good thoughts, good words, and good actions. Yet it was not complete if cold or rainy weather prevented him from passing an hour or two in the evening, when the two women had retired, in his garden before going to sleep. It seemed as though it were a sort of rite with him, to prepare himself for sleep by meditating in the presence of the great spectacle of the starry firmament. Sometimes late at night, if the two women were awake, they would hear him slowly walking the paths. He was out there alone with himself, composed, tranquil, adoring, comparing the serenity of his heart with the serenity of the skies, moved in the darkness by the visible splendors of the constellations, and the invisible splendor of God, opening his soul to the thoughts that fall from the Unknown. In such moments, offering up his heart at the hour when the flowers of night emit their perfume, lit like a lamp in the center of the starry night, expanding his soul in ecstasy in the midst of creation’s universal radiance, perhaps he could not have told what was happening in his own mind; he felt something depart from him, and something descend upon him; mysterious exchanges of the depths of the soul with the depths of the universe.

He contemplated the grandeur, and the presence of God; the eternity of the future, that strange mystery; the eternity of the past, a stranger mystery; all the infinities hidden deep in every direction; and, without trying to comprehend the incomprehensible, he saw it. He did not study God; he was dazzled by Him. He reflected upon the magnificent union of atoms, which give visible forms to Nature, revealing forces by recognizing them, creating individualities in unity, proportions in extension, the innumerable in the infinite, and through light producing beauty. These unions are forming and dissolving continually; from which come life and death.

He would sit on a wooden bench leaning against a decrepit trellis and look at the stars through the irregular outlines of his fruit trees. This quarter of an acre of ground, so sparingly planted, so cluttered with shed and ruins, was dear to him and satisfied him.

What more was needed by this old man, who divided the leisure hours of his life, where he had so little leisure, between gardening in the day time, and contemplation at night? Was this narrow enclosure, with the sky for a background not space enough for him to adore God in his most beautiful, most sublime works? Indeed, is that not everything? What more do you need? A little garden to walk in, and immensity to reflect on. At his feet something to cultivate and gather; above his head something to study and meditate on; a few flowers on earth and all the stars in the sky.”


Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
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Les Misérables Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
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